【Artist in Residence in Sasama, Japan Part Ⅱ】

Good morning my beloved people, my beloved village
Oh Hamlet, Hamlet, where are you?
Dogs walking the human and she is happy
The best place to practice the piano. Just found a comfortable chair
Taking a nap in my favorite bed
First time to play the ground golf and something is wrong
The tea fields are shimmering
I am Scorpio ♏️
Mountains getting greener and greener.

An article about our project (Shizuoka Newspaper)


Sasama is a tiny village with a population of around 400 people.

Japanese haiku poet Santōka Taneda composed:

– Going deeperAnd still deeperThe green mountains. –

The salient features of this scenic mountain village are filled with the peaceful atmosphere created by the clean river, tea fields and extremely friendly people.

Various seasonal attractions are represented; the joy cherry blossom in spring, playing in the river in summer, the au- tumn’s leaves and charcoal fire in winter.

The region around Sasama is also known for its richly flavored Kawane tea crops and savory shiitake mushrooms.

Interacting with heartwarming local people always makes us think how grateful we would could be in this Nirvana.

This village’s last-remaining primary school of was forced to close due to a major declining birth rate and an aging population, prompting Japanese ceramic artist Shozo Michikawa to come up with the idea of holding an “International Ceramic Art Festival in Sasama” in 2011. The festival takes place every second year,and many people have since visited the village.

The closed school was revived again as a place to hold work- shops for children and young students. Furthermore, it also goes by the name of “Sasama civic center” and functions as a unique accommodation for visitors. The village is gradually becoming enlivened and reenergized, flourishing again as it once did.

For 2020’s fifth annual festival, the organizers have invited 67 ceramic artists from 21 countries.
Sasama features an abundance of the five classical elements, metal,wood, water, fire and earth and provides a perfect setting in which to knead clay with the purist water and to fire pottery in a kiln heated by charcoal.

During the festival, I met a married couple walking hand in hand with their small children. They said “We were fascinated by locals and their life while visiting here several times. We decided to buy an old house (Japanese kominka) here, and we have been renovating it”. 

The parents seemed confident of a bright future for their children.

Due to acute climate change, the seasons of the first cherry blossoms and the tea harvest have started to begin earlier. But people haven’t changed their life and continue to take care of the forest and cultivate a field rich in nature.

The tea fields owner, who was born and raised in Sasama, said smiling, “Our aim is not for so-called touristic revitalization, but we all hope to be able to can take good care of this peaceful and beautiful village so long as we can”.

The tea fields depicted here sparkle and shimmer all year long.

人口約400人の山村、笹間。詩人の種田山頭火が詠んだように「分け入つても分け入つても青い山」に抱かれて、茶畑が広がり、清流が流れ、そして心優しき人々が住むこの集落。春は桜、夏は川遊び、秋は紅葉狩、冬は炭焼きと、四季折々の美しい日本の姿を今に留める桃源郷である。滋味深い川根茶と、滴るような旨味溢れる椎茸の産地でもあり、この地を訪れる幸運を地元民との交流を通してしみじみと噛み しめることができる。

一時、日本の出生率低下と高齢化の波は、この村の最後の小学校を閉校せざるを得ない状況に追いやったが、陶芸家の道川省三氏が提起して、2011年より「ささま国際陶芸 祭」が2年おきに開催される運びとなった。万物の象徴、五行【火・水・木・金・土】の全てに恵まれた笹間に全世界から陶芸家たちが集まり、第5回目の2019年には、21ヶ国より6 7名の芸術家が参加。また、閉校状態だった小学校は「山村都市交流センターささま」として旅人の宿泊施設や文化イベ ントの集いの場に蘇り、子供たちのワークショップなども開催され、絶えて久しかった若き声が山々にこだまするようになった。


「笹間を何度か訪れるうちに、ここの人々と暮らしぶりにすっかり魅せられてしまい、古民家を買い取って修復しているところです」子供を見つめるふたりの眼は、 未来への確かな希望で輝いていた。

気候変動と連動して、桜の開花やお茶の初摘みの時期も早 まりつつあるというが、村人たちは豊かな森の木々を手入れし、畑を丹念に耕し、煌めく川の流れに目をやりながら、誠実に日々を生きている。この地に生まれ育った茶畑の主が微笑みながら言った。「ツーリズムとしての村おこしではなく、のんびりと長閑(のどか) なこの村の寿命をいつまでどんな風に延ばせるかなあと皆 願っているんだよ」


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